Make a unique filesystem path, without creating the file

Alan Bawden alan at
Tue Feb 16 19:24:20 EST 2016

Ben Finney <ben+python at> writes:

> Cameron Simpson <cs at> writes:
>> I've been watching this for a few days, and am struggling to
>> understand your use case.
> Yes, you're not alone. This surprises me, which is why I'm persisting.
>> Can you elaborate with a concrete example and its purpose which would
>> work with a mktemp-ish official function?
> An example::

Let me present another example that might strike some as more

If I want to create a temporary file, I can call mkstemp().  
If I want to create a temporary directory, I can call mkdtemp().

Suppose that instead of a file or a directory, I want a FIFO or a

A FIFO is created by passing a pathname to os.mkfifo().  A socket is
created by passing a pathname to an AF_UNIX socket's bind() method.  In
both cases, the pathname must not name anything yet (not even a symbolic
link), otherwise the call will fail.

So in the FIFO case, I might write something like the following:

    def make_temp_fifo(mode=0o600):
        while True:
            path = tempfile.mktemp()
                os.mkfifo(path, mode=mode)
            except FileExistsError:
                return path
mktemp() is convenient here, because I don't have to worry about whether
I should be using "/tmp" or "/var/tmp" or "c:\temp", or whether the
TMPDIR environment variable is set, or whether I have permission to
create entries in those directories.  It just gives me a pathname
without making me think about the rest of that stuff.  Yes, I have to
defend against the possibility that somebody else creates something with
the same name first, but as you can see, I did that, and it wasn't
rocket science.

So is there something wrong with the above code?  Other than the fact
that the documentation says something scary about mktemp()?

It looks to me like mktemp() provides some real utility, packaged up in
a way that is orthogonal to the type of file system entry I want to
create, the permissions I want to give to that entry, and the mode I
want use to open it.  It looks like a useful, albeit low-level,
primitive that it is perfectly reasonable for the tempfile module to

And yet the documentation condemns it as "deprecated", and tells me I
should use mkstemp() instead.  (As if that would be of any use in the
situation above!)  It looks like anxiety that some people might use
mktemp() in a stupid way has caused an over-reaction.  Let the
documentation warn about the problem and point to prepackaged solutions
in the common cases of making files and directories, but I see no good
reason to deprecate this useful utility.

Alan Bawden

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